The U.S. House of Representatives may take action this week on a bill designed to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers and others who apply pesticides.
On Monday, the House Committee on Rules is expected to consider the debate rules for a bill introduced back in February by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio. The measure would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and states authorized to issue permits through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, from requiring permits for some pesticides applications.
The bill, HR 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017, has come up repeatedly over the past several years but has been unable to make it into law.
Once a bill makes it to the Rules Committee, it usually means it is expected to be debated by the full House shortly after. The rules committee has scheduled a hearing for late Monday.
For farmers, this would include not requiring NPDES permits for pesticide residues that result from pesticide applications.
The bill would eliminate the need for NPDES permits for certain discharges of pesticides if their use is authorized under the FIFRA, or if such discharge already is regulated as a storm water, municipal or industrial discharge by the Clean Water Act.
The bill lists some exceptions that would still demand a permit. That includes discharges that result from pesticide applications that were done in violation of FIFRA, “or the amount of pesticide or pesticide residue in the discharge is greater than would have occurred without the violation.”
When the pesticides bill was reintroduced back in February, Rep. Gibbs hailed the measure as a way to cut “bureaucratic red tape.”
“Requiring an NPDES permit is unnecessary,” Gibbs said in a statement. “It only adds compliance costs, and no new environmental protections. FIFRA appropriately regulated pesticides for 60 years before the enactment of the Clean Water Act and has regulated pesticides for 40 years after.”
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On Nov. 27, 2007, the EPA issued a final rule that concluded pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, were exempt from the Clean Water Act’s permitting requirements.
Back in 2009, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati vacated the rule as a result of a lawsuit filed by environmental and industry groups.
The court ruled that pesticide residues coming from pollution point sources should be regulated by the Clean Water Act, requiring farmers and others to seek NPDES permits.
Now, Congress is attempting to change the Clean Water Act to essentially support EPA’s original final rule.
President Donald Trump signed on Jan. 30 signed an executive order to scale back government regulations. The president’s executive order was praised by a number of agriculture interest groups.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN